The Time Is Right to End the All Male and All White Conference

This year the largest consumer electronics conference CES2018 took place and no women were featured as keynotes during the entire conference.

This is not about pipelines, this is about exclusion. Whole segments of our population are systematically excluded from participating in our economy. Conferences like CES are a tremendous promotional opportunity for speakers.

Nudging people to do better, doesn't work. We need bolder action and bolder commitments.

A couple of years ago I wrote a blog about some men who were pledging not to participate in events that didn't have a certain level of female representation. One man told me that he had his sponsorship check returned to him when he said that he would only participate on a panel if there were women on it as well. Wow. These dinosaur events do not want to change. We need to stop attending conferences that don't value our voices.

These exclusionary panels and conferences are dinosaurs, and they need to end. I'm calling on a complete disruption of these events.

My proposal is that we stop holding women-focused industry events. Instead, create a more inclusive event that competes directly with the ones that exclude women. Partner with another industry group focused on underrepresented populations. Why are conference organizers ceding the market to these dinosaur events? Yes, they are large, but they are out of step with their customers and their employees.

This is the time.

If your conference is good enough for women or any underrepresented demographic group, then it certainly is good enough for everyone. Think bigger and bolder, and put those other conferences out of business. Corporate sponsorships and attendee fees are the fuel for these big events. Rebrand and relaunch your awesome conference to make it inclusive at the core, and laser focused on the industry you serve.

We can do this.

Barbara Clarke